EDITOR'S NOTE: Since this issue of BATMAN features part 2 of a story that began in DETECTIVE, John Bierly is reviewing #684. - Jett
BATMAN #684 is the second part of the "Last Days of Gotham" story that began in DETECTIVE COMICS #751, which we reviewed RIGHT HERE.
It's a decent story by a legendary Batman scribe, but it's not as solid as the first issue and there's still no Batman to be seen.
We pick up where the first part left off, with Nightwing and a pizza delivery boy trapped in a burning building after Nightwing's sound beating at the hands of a gang led by a two-bit Two-Face impersonator. (Whose impersonation, by the way, is limited to a scarf with drawn-on scar patterns that he wraps around one side of his face. And somebody needs to tell this guy that the real Harvey Dent doesn't wear wife-beaters or sport a Steven Seagal ponytail.) Nightwing was there to fight some crime, but the pizza boy came to the wrong address at the worst possible time.
Luckily for Nightwing, the pizza delivery boy just happens to be a Former State Champion High School Gymnast! (Maybe Dick should hire this guy as his own Robin.) They escape to find that punks in the neighborhood have stolen Nightwing's motorcycle, so Former State Champion High School Gymnast Pizza Delivery Boy gives Dick a ride home. (Don't worry. Dick walks the last three miles so that Pizza Delivery Boy doesn't see he's going to Wayne Manor. Can you imagine what might have happened if Alfred had unknowingly just ordered a pizza? Awkward!)
We all owe a big debt to writer Denny O'Neil for making Batman serious again in the 1970s. He still writes with the same voice -- see the transition on page 8 for an example -- but tries to make things a bit more modern. Some of it works, and some of it doesn't.
Dick feels like a fool for having his bike stolen, while Alfred reminds him that hundreds of motorcycles are stolen every week. Maybe so, but this is a super bike with Batman tech, right? I'd think a guy like Batman -- and for that matter, a guy like Nightwing -- would be able to track his own vehicles. Oh, well. It's not the best story device for showing Dick beating up on himself for not being Bruce, but it ends nicely enough with a classic assurance from Alfred.
And then there's the fake Two-Face -- who sincerely believes he'll be mistaken for the real Two-Face -- calling Gordon to tell him he's going to crash the mayor's party at City Hall. Doesn't Gordon know Harvey's (and Two-Face's) voice well enough to know that it's not even him? Then again, maybe he does know -- I don't guess it matters who's making the threat. It's not like Gordon's not going to respond to it. And yet Gordon wastes time on the roof with the Bat Signal even though he knows Batman isn't coming. But Nightwing does show up, and they spend too much time gabbing before Dick heads off into the night to save the day. (I agree with Bullock's assessment of Nightwing's exit.)
Gordon does much moping at the end; he's not even able to talk about Batman's absence. Though you'd think, after Knightfall and the earthquake and One Year Later, etc., that Gordon would be used to this by now.
And then, of course, there's another appearance by Millicent Mayne, the scarred actress who still wanders through the wreckage of the one street that was never repaired after the big earthquake. Why wasn't it repaired? Bullock tells Gordon and Nightwing that his cops always see her walking around looking like she's crazy, so why haven't they ever tried to help her?
The issue ends with Millicent telling us that she and Dick are going to have an extraordinary talk about "good and evil and the kinds of masks we all wear."
But we don't get to hear the conversation!
Millicent and Dick are both performers who had their innocence ripped away from them. I'm sure they'd have some fascinating things to discuss. But it just gets glossed over.
All of this moping, wondering, and whining is already terribly tiring, and Batman's barely even been gone. Unless you want a complete collection, save your three dollars on this one. - John Bierly